DON'T READ THIS IF you are the mother of a son. Especially don't read this if you are the mother of a son who wants to join the military. It will make you cry. It made me cry writing it, and I still get misty eyed as I read it yet again. The following is an "over grown comment" I made last night on Melissa Grant's blog: "What is the age of reason? My son is 15 and wants to join the Military".
Your words resonate with me. My son was the same way. It all officially started in high school with the ROTC program, but the signs were there long before that, when he used to move his plastic armies (those little military figurines) across the large World map I had bought for him. By the way, you forgot to mention the shoe polishing endeavors... my son was obsessed with polishing his ROTC shoes...
I sent him to the Citadel summer camp, thinking that the rigors of the military will sink in after three weeks there, but he came back even more excited and eventually became a Citadel Summer Camp counselor. In case you don't know, "The Citadel" is the South's version of West Point.
The Citadel was the only college he applied to. He did the early application, in his junior year, if I remember correctly. He got accepted. His first year there was rough. I remember that first day. I signed him in and he went in for a brief hour and came back very bothered. It looked like he had been crying, but would not disclose what they did to him. I left him at the Citadel with a heavy heart and wrote him a letter every day while he was in "Hell Week". That was the only way to communicate with him. I had absolutely NO access to him during that time. No phone, no e-mail, no visits, nothing. At the end of that period, I can't remember if it was one week or two, it felt like forever to me, he called me up and said: "Mom, what's with all the letters?" They apparently held the letters during "Hell Week", and gave him ALL of them at the end of it.
During the first year at the Citadel it was rough. He never confessed to it, but I know the attrition rate was quite high among the cadets; I think only a small percentage of them actually finish that first, dreadful year. My son was one of them. He went on to become a Leader at The Citadel. He was one of the Big Bosses on campus. He became a Summerall Guard, a very high honor, the top of the top at the college. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from The Citadel in 2006.
Early on, during his feverish pitch with the ROTC, I only asked him two things: 1. If you like the military, attend a military college; 2. Don't join ANY branch of the military until your last year of military college. Never mind the scholarships they offer; I'll pay the tuition! Never mind that all your friends are joining. Just wait to join! If, after 4 years of military training, you still want to join, go ahead and join. I played the card "I was in labor with you for 30 hours..."
That's exactly what he did. He joined the Marines at the end of his senior year at The Citadel. He went to Quantico, VA for 6 months. The first 6 weeks of his training it was arduous. At one point, while in the hospital with fever and pure exhaustion, with gashing blisters on his feet from all the marching/running through water in wet boots, he considered quitting. He called me wanting my advice. As much as I would have loved for him to quit and come home to momma, I told him to honor his commitment. I told him to finish the training, and if he still wanted to quit after that, he could reject his commission. Always finish what you start; you don't want to go through life with "what if's"... It's not good for the soul...
He finished his training. He accepted the commission. He is now an officer in the Marines. He turned 24 today, my St. Patrick's Day Baby... My Lucky Charm... He got a standing ovation at my sister's wedding, standing ever so tall and proud in his Marine uniform. He will be deployed some time this year or the next. Am I scared? You bet! My son is the very core of my heart, and I am crying as I am writing you these lines. I pray for him every night and I can't wait for this war to be over!
Some of his Citadel buddies have already come back from the trenches. Some did not.
In spite of all my fears, I am glad that my son is following his heart! I've always taught him to do just that. You have to honor the wonderful person that you've raised and accept their choices. You have to encourage them to live an authentic life, one that may be very different from the choices you would make for them. You will probably get a lot further with him and help him make better choice by encouraging him to attend military college first, before enlisting in the military. He would be a much better soldier that way (or at least that's how you can sell him on the program...).
The Citadel and VMA both have early orientation programs. You could look into it for this summer.
Kids should not be in wars. Wars should be fought with paint guns. We'd have Eternal World Peace if all the politicians were mothers...
Stay strong, Melissa! You've raised a good kid. Now gently guide him towards the military career that he desires by taking the long road to battle via the military college. Who knows, it might even cure his military "itch": half the cadets graduating from The Citadel embrace a civilian career instead of the G.I.Joe one...
Good luck! Call me anytime! I would love to help!
Sincerely - Mirela
Your Myrtle Beach Real Estate Connection, Mirela Monte
Celebrating the receipt of his Citadel Ring in 2005, with his then girlfriend, Mary, who is now his wife. I am the proud mother in the middle.
My son & his wife.
Marines marching at Quantico, VA, in 2006, when my son received his commission.